When deciding whether a disciplinary penalty is appropriate and what form it should take, consideration should be given to:
It should be clear what the normal organisational practice is for dealing with the kind of misconduct or unsatisfactory performance under consideration. This does not mean that similar offences will always call for the same disciplinary action - each case must be looked at on its own merits and any relevant circumstances taken into account. Such relevant circumstances may include health or domestic problems, provocation, justifiable ignorance of the rule or standard involved or inconsistent treatment in the past.
In cases of unsatisfactory performance an employee should be given an 'improvement note', setting out:
The employee should be informed that the note represents the first stage of a formal procedure and is equivalent to a first written warning and that failure to improve could lead to a final written warning and, ultimately, dismissal. A copy of the note should be kept and used as the basis for monitoring and reviewing performance over a specified period (e.g., six months).
If an employee's unsatisfactory performance – or its continuance – is sufficiently serious, for example, because it is having, or is likely to have, a serious harmful effect on the organisation, it may be justifiable to move directly to a final written warning.
In cases of misconduct, employees should be given a written warning setting out the nature of the misconduct and the change in behaviour required.
The warning should also inform the employee that a final written warning may be considered if there is further misconduct. A record of the warning should be kept, but it should be disregarded for disciplinary purposes after a specified period (e.g., six months).
If the employee has a current warning about conduct or performance then further misconduct or unsatisfactory performance (whichever is relevant) may warrant a final written warning. This may also be the case where 'first offence' misconduct is sufficiently serious, but would not justify dismissal. Such a warning should normally remain current for a specified period, for example, 12 months, and contain a statement that further misconduct or unsatisfactory performance may lead to dismissal.
If the employee has received a final written warning, further misconduct or unsatisfactory performance may warrant dismissal.
Alternatively the employment contract may allow for a different disciplinary penalty instead. Such a penalty may include disciplinary transfer, disciplinary suspension without pay, demotion, loss of seniority or loss of increment. These sanctions may only be applied if allowed for in the employee's contract or with the employee's agreement.
Any penalty should be confirmed in writing, and the procedure and time limits for appeal set out clearly.
Employees should only be dismissed if, despite warnings, conduct or performance does not improve to the required level within the specified time period. Dismissal must be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case.
Unless the employee is being dismissed for reasons of gross misconduct, he or she should receive the appropriate period of notice or payment in lieu of notice.
Employers should give all employees a clear indication of the type of misconduct which, in the light of the requirements of the employer's business, will warrant dismissal without the normal period of notice or pay in lieu of notice. So far as possible, the types of offences which fall into this category of 'gross misconduct' should be clearly specified in the rules, although such a list cannot normally be exhaustive.
Gross misconduct is generally seen as misconduct serious enough to overturn the contract between the employer and the employee thus justifying summary dismissal. Acts which constitute gross misconduct must be very serious and are best determined by organisations in the light of their own particular circumstances.
However, examples of gross misconduct might include:
If an employer considers an employee guilty of gross misconduct and thus liable for summary dismissal, it is still important to follow a fair procedure as for any other disciplinary offence. This will include establishing the facts of the case before taking any action, holding a meeting with the employee and allowing the employee the right of appeal. It should be made clear to the employee that dismissal is a possibility. A short period of suspension with full pay to help establish the facts or to allow tempers to cool may be helpful. However, such a period of suspension should only be imposed after careful consideration and should be kept under review. It should be made clear to the employee that the suspension is not a disciplinary action and does not involve any prejudgment.